Christopher Hitchens' Mortality was released three weeks ago today. Below is a brief run down of what you can expect to find in the book, without exposing much. It's a wonderful and quick read that allows us a closer look into Christopher's last year and a half, living with cancer.
Graydon Carter, friend and colleague of Hitchens', opens the book with a forward for Mortality, efficiently describing Hitchens, his work, personality and death. If you didn't know much about Hitchens already, you will have been supplied with just enough to continue reading without feeling clueless. As for this review, if you would like more information on Hitchens, please visit the links where provided.
There are eight parts to the book:
I. Fantastic imagery to start. The way Hitchens describes what he's experiencing while meeting his cancer seems as though it could not be better put. He then analyzes the "five stages of grief" and how they apply to him.
(Click here for the interview he mentions with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.)
II. Page 12 may infuriate you momentarily. If you're like me, you'll be picking apart the flaws and idiocy in the statement presented about Christopher, but then be satisfied with his response to the Christian. Going on to discuss prayer, and the designated "Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day", Hitchens can't help but let his humor emit from him, something I've always enjoyed. When discussing religious ideas and teachings, he offers many of his thoughts in a brief and brilliant, conversational way.
III. Reviewing the various treatment possibilities, he clearly experienced a roller coaster of emotions, from excited and hopeful to melancholy and disappointed. NIH director (and devout Christian) Francis Collins also tried to help Christopher, but met obstacles stemming from the ridiculous stem cell research battle.
IV. Cancer can be awkward, as Hitchens describes. There needs to be more discussion such as this so people can better determine how to communicate socially regarding the topic of cancer.
V. Recalling the important role Christopher's voice has had in his life, it's something so basic for most of us; consider how your life would have been different if you had a different voice...or none at all.
VI. What doesn't kill you can weaken you considerably. Reviewing his treatments and medical events resulting from his condition, Hitchens considers the effects it has had on him and those working against his cancer.
VII. Examining how just a slight difference in tone and motivation could completely change his experience in that hospital, it is an intriguing thought that he could be identified as a man battling against cancer with the help of medical professionals, or an animal battling against the devices used by torture professionals. This train of thought was provoked, in part, by his experiment being waterboarded.
VIII. Lastly, an assorted assembly of jottings comprises the final part of the book, which for me echoed one feeling throughout: The feeling that I, and the publisher, didn't want it to end. As if I couldn't accept that part VII was the last of his completed written thoughts, part VIII scooped up all the crumbs that fell from his pen throughout this time and presents them to us.
The book ends with a beautifully written afterward from Christopher's wife, Carol Blue. She's presents a perspective of Hitchens that many of us may not be familiar with, but I'm certainly happy to read. I would love to read a book from her regarding her life with Christopher, if she were to write one.
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